Child of the Flames
AVAILABLE NOW on KINDLE and in PAPERBACK from AMAZON
I don’t usually like to get political on my blog. I don’t think that using this platform to spew any sort of ideology is what my readers are searching for, or expecting from me. However, in this case, I’m too angry and unsettled to ignore what’s happening. I know I’m probably going to catch some hate for this, but so be it.
I will not apologize.
We’ve all seen the news, I’m sure, and if you haven’t, you should probably start paying attention. For the past few years, there has been a growing controversy within western culture. The growing divide between Left and Right in America and abroad has reached a point where the two sides have become increasingly polarized, and ever more insular. Politics has become intensely personal, and the ramifications are radiating outward through all western societies.
I have been in a unique position to witness some of this controversy playing out first-hand. At the time of this writing, I am thirty-five years of age, and a United States Army veteran of the so-called “War on Terror.” I’m also a liberal arts student attending a large school with a vibrant left-leaning culture, though I won’t mention which university. This is increasingly becoming an odd dichotomy in American society. When I mentioned that I was a veteran, you probably pictured a mock-up of my personality based on popular stereotypes. In wild opposition to that, you may have pictured something different when I mentioned that I was a liberal arts college student.
This has allowed me to walk between the two “worlds,” so to speak. On one hand, I have my personal experiences taken from multiple deployments over nine and a half years of military service to inform my opinions on the war, other cultures, and international politics. On the other, I have the prevailing cultural zeitgeist influencing–or trying to influence–what I think and feel about the above mentioned subjects, and all other hot topics. Feminism, Men’s Rights, LGBT rights, Islam, terrorism, Republicans, Democrats, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, free speech…it could go on and on. You all know what I’m talking about.
I’ve never been one to complain about having to face adversity–I grew up an atheist in the Bible Belt, so I’ve been arguing with people my entire life. Growing up, I had a regular troop of other kids in school who made it their personal mission to either convert me, or let me know that I would burn forever in Hell for my blasphemy. Even my friends would sometimes look at me like I was pitifully misguided, though they would tolerate my vociferous opposition to their positions. I laughed these things off, because hey–Hell isn’t real to me, so it’s an empty threat. Being a contrarian is not only a comfortable position for me, but also a preferred one. I would much rather be a pariah who is strong in his beliefs than a sheep who has no foundation for the same.
Now, in pursuing a liberal arts degree, I have once again found myself in the contrary position. I will preface the following statements with the “hashtag-not-all” qualifier. For the most part, everyone I’ve met on campus has been friendly, open, and interested in discussion. It’s college, after all–that’s kind of the point. I have also faced a surprising amount of hate. I have been called a war-monger, a fascist, a straight-up Nazi, a white supremacist, and had the term “right-winger” thrown at me the way a racist might spew epithets at his or her most-hated group of people. I voted twice for Obama, and in this last election, I was so disgusted by both major candidates that I voted for Gary Johnson (go ahead and accuse me of wasting my vote, I would rather have done that than join either Clinton’s or Trump’s camp). I have never considered myself right-wing.
However, at school I nearly had an official complaint logged against me under Title IX rules because, during a discussion in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I said that the primary motivation for the killings was contained within the Qur’an. This comment was met with horror by most of the students in the class–all of whom were under twenty-one, and had never traveled outside the sphere of the western world. The teacher for this class, who was a graduate student in the humanities, called me down for the comment. To me, this is the most benign and truthful comment one could make in regards to the shooting. I didn’t say that Muslims are evil, or that Muslims hate gay people, or that Muslims do anything at all. I said that the Qur’an clearly sanctions this kind of violence in the same way the Bible sanctions slavery, and all kinds of other horrible stuff. The comment was devoid of any condemnation for any person, or group of people–it was a comment on the holy book itself.
I was also the only one in the class who had read the Qur’an. I’ve also read a sizable amount of the Sunni hadith, three versions of the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and studied Shintoism, Confucianism, Ancient Greek and Roman religion, and lots about the three schools of Buddhism–Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. As an atheist, I find that I’m quite interested in and mesmerized by religion, religious history, and religious thought. Only three other students in my class were even familiar with the Bible, and only one had actually tried to read it. Only those three knew what the term “Abrahamic” meant in regards to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet, the entire class spoke to me with “authority,” assuring me that the Qur’an most certainly does not advocate violence–these white teenagers whose only exposure to Islamic cultures has been filtered through social media. I’d say the news, but who are we kidding? These days, people get their news fed to them by whatever social media outlet into which they are currently hooked. The information they’re used to getting has been curated, and corrupted–and it was probably biased to begin with, as well.
I remember when Christians were bombing abortion clinics in the United States, and crowding the entrances to these places in order to shame and attack the women who needed care. I was a child for most of that, but I remember the culture surrounding these attacks and how society confronted them. No one would deny the fact that the justification for these attacks–or at least, the basis for the outrage over abortion–was found within the popular Christian belief that life begins at conception. I don’t remember a vast army of apologists for the violence, or any pundits on television saying “well, we just have to understand that Christians are mad about this sort of thing, and the real problem we need to worry about is backlash against the Christian community.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of hate out there for Christians, but as a society, we did not shrink from confronting the root of the problem.
Today, there is most definitely a culture of silence surrounding the problems facing our society. It thrives in our universities, it has seeded itself in our media, and spread from preschools to the top of the most powerful entities in western society, including our governments, and our most powerful corporations. It is not a centralized conspiracy, but rather a prevailing zeitgeist that resembles, for lack of a better word, a pervasive orthodoxy.
I, like all of you, read the news about the Google engineer who wrote an “anti-diversity” memo, and was subsequently fired. To me, this was the culmination of something that has been bubbling beneath the surface for years. The man was blasted in the media as being everything from a woman-hating misogynist to an alt-right racist–none of which, of course, was true. Read the memo for yourself. The man takes pains to point out that his arguments are NOT coming from a racist or sexist place, and in fact, he suggests ways to improve the hiring practices in order to make working at Google more attractive for women. In an interview after the fact, he even stated explicitly that he wants more women in tech, if for the simple reason that he likes working with women.
Of course he does. He’s a nerdy guy. He probably jumps for joy when a woman looks in his direction.
Not long after this, it came out that Google has been burying search results, or redirecting searches to results that seem more in line with Google’s values–such as redirecting ISIS searches to anti-ISIS videos, etc. On one hand, this sounds like a good thing. After all, we don’t want people being able to search up ISIS videos and become radicalized, right? Surely not. Being the contrarian that I am, though, I must raise a point–why in all the hells do we trust Google to tell us what’s acceptable to think? Since when do we care what Google’s values are? Why do we, as a society and as consumers, tolerate ANY thumbs on the proverbial internet scale? Why would we cheer for a company who tells us to our faces that they wish to control what we watch, read, and can find on the internet? Since when do people beg the Ministry of Truth to intervene in their lives, and curate what they are allowed to know?
After all, controversial and objectionable are subjective, relative terms. Don’t believe me? Read more history.
Nothing, to me, sounds more un-American, more antithetical to the enlightenment values that all westerners–not just Americans–hold dear, than this cowardly, secret censorship. Our society has blossomed from the courage to confront, to question, and to risk trying new things. It took hundreds of years for western societies to shrug away the mantle of religious orthodoxy and reach new heights, to find a synergy between rational inquiry and religious morality. Now, a new kind of orthodoxy has sprung up in our midst. One that has all the mechanical elements of a religious philosophy–rigid dogma, resistance to contrary evidence, desire for social control, hatred of outsiders, and active punishment of dissent, to name a few. I know there are probably more elements I’m missing. This orthodoxy has none of the mythology, but all the mechanical trappings of a cult. It must be confronted, and it must be defeated.
Google’s dickery is most obvious to users of YouTube. I’m a cord-cutter, meaning that I don’t subscribe to any cable television services. I get all my media online, and have been doing so for the past few years. This was originally an awesome thing. On YouTube, it was quite easy to find shows that discussed politics in long format, with interesting people who couldn’t be more different than the paid pundits one would find on ABC or CNN or Fox. On YouTube, one could find new perspectives, both interesting and repulsive. One could also find independent journalists, who were supported directly by their patrons on Patreon and by ad revenue on YouTube, who would report honestly–and without filters–on whatever subject they were currently pursuing. YouTube had the potential to be a free market of ideas, a bubbling cultural cauldron where even the most radical suggestions could be confronted, argued, and tested–at least, in the rhetorical sense. YouTube has made some of the biggest stars in our society at the moment, and has become in itself a cultural phenomenon. YouTube was so awesome because it pushed aside the traditional media gatekeepers, and instead took its ideas and content directly to users, who voted on whether or not they wanted said content. With YouTube, you knew the biases in what you were watching were clear, if there were any, and that what you were seeing was, at least in some sense, raw.
Also, I hear it’s a good place for cat videos and Worldstar compilations.
YouTube, however, has recently been blasted for blocking videos they deem “controversial.” They’ve demonetized videos en masse, and have empowered “trusted users” to go on flagging campaigns against content they find objectionable, effectively creating a sort of digital Truth Brigade. While demonetizing an ISIS propoganda video is one thing, what about the temporary removal of Dr. Jordan Petersen’s account? A move which was obviously motivated by his outspoken resistance to hard-left ideology encroaching upon western society. Agree with him or disagree with him, his videos simply cannot be compared to, or lumped in with, ISIS propaganda and pornography. YouTube, however, did exactly that. They’ve hid video notifications of channels from the very subscribers of said channels, effectively telling you, the end user, that the content to which you subscribed is something you shouldn’t be seeing.
You might say that Google is a private company, and they can censor whatever they want on their own platform. There is some merit to that argument, but I do have a dog in this fight–I subscribe to HBO, Google Music, and YouTube Red through Google Play. I have been a Google customer for years–a paying customer. Also, Google has arguably reached such a level of influence in our society that they have a responsibility to uphold things like free speech. Google has created entire economies, including the one on YouTube. It’s just not right for Google to create this economy, invest in it, encourage it, then start picking winners and losers based on the political beliefs of their creators. What it is effectively doing is discriminating against the end users who hold those political beliefs, or just wish to hear those beliefs. Forget, for a moment, the wrong being done to those creators who, without warning, saw much of their income vanish overnight. What about the users, who have become consumers of “controversial” content? It is clear that YouTube and Google are attempting to shut these channels down by demonetizing them, and if this trend continues, they will succeed. The disappearance of this content hurts not just the creators, but the users who have become fans of these creators.
My message to Google is thus: Stop placing yourself between your customers and their preferred creators. Stop with the political discrimination within your own company, and stop with the ham-fisted attempts to water down the information that reaches your end users. It is not your job to be the Ministry of Truth. It is your job to find what the fuck I’m searching for, not to decide what it is I really want to see, or should be seeing. Also, fuck you for trying–that’s some truly evil shit. If this doesn’t change, I will be voting with my dollar, and encouraging everyone else to do so as well.
And YouTube–you had something great going before you decided to play schoolmarm for your entire audience. You pushed aside the gatekeepers, and allowed creators to bring their content directly to the users. You then made a system which saw the most popular creators rise to the top, but also allowed those with smaller audiences to find their niches and make an income doing what they love. This was good not only for them, but for your audience. It is exactly what YouTube users wanted, and why they love it. It is the thing that made YouTube what it is, you fucking idiots. Now, instead of disdaining the gatekeepers, you have decided to become the gatekeeper. You have taken the very thing that made your product awesome, and turned it around ninety degrees.
Google, it is not your place to take a political stance. I wish everyone would stop doing it, as if I care what Johnson & Johnson thinks about gay rights, or whether or not Aflac insurance is #woke. You can’t even watch ESPN these days without having twelve idiots talking about whether or not Colin Kaepernick’s inability to get hired is racist. For fuck’s sake, he’s not even a good quarterback! Can I just get the game highlights without the political commentary, please? This constant grandstanding, this high-handed moralizing, is beginning to really make me sick.
Companies need to stay in their lanes. If you want to support a political cause, then give money to those causes. Do not use your platform to discriminate against those with whom you do not agree. That’s not only underhanded, it’s cowardly, and frighteningly authoritarian. The fact that anyone agrees with it is staggering to me.
Authoritarianism is my greatest fear. It is the thing that pushed me away from religion, and the thing against which I have spoken my entire adult life. It doesn’t matter if any given authoritarian is wearing a brown shirt, an SS belt buckle, a hammer-and-sickle pin, a priest’s robes, or a CEO’s tailored suit. In practice, they are all the same–cowards who want nothing more than to stifle individuality, and whitewash society in their own preferred image. They are evil, no matter the clothing in which they appear.
So, Google–stop being evil bastards. We can all see what you’re doing.
Hey all. Just a quick note to let you all know–as I probably mentioned before–that I’ll be r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day tomorrow over at Reddit. You can come to the website, and submit a question to me about absolutely anything. The books, the characters, the setting, the nature of the quantum vacuum…whatever you want.
If you don’t have a Reddit account, it’s easy. No uploading pictures, no selecting preferences, just enter your email and you’re ready to post. You’ll need an account to ask me a question, but Reddit is a pretty interesting place even without me, so you can thank me later.
Go HERE to register a Reddit account, if you don’t have one.
HERE is the site where I’ll be answering questions. I’ll be sending out a link directly to the Q&A to all my social media, so just keep your eyes open for it.
I’ve carved out the day from 0800-1700 to talk with you guys, answer any questions, or just BS with one another.
So come down tomorrow and talk to me.
Today I’ve got a pair of little gems at which you can all snicker. Without too much introduction, let’s get right into it. First up is a confused spammer who can’t decide whether he’s looking to buy some boner pills, or sell some boner pills. Also, he seems confused on the appropriate place for this activity.
“cialis 20 mg can i buy tadalafil can i buy tadalafil
tadalafil over the counter
cialis online where to buy cialis cialis no prescription”
*edited to remove hyperlinks
I think what our friends needs is a little advertising consultation. Let’s rewrite his ad and help him out.
“Tired of your member flopping around like a bag of water in a sock?
Never fear! You can buy Cialis right here from shady overseas suppliers! Is it really Cialis? Is it powdered mouse bones in BPA capsules? Who knows?! Who cares?! What you need right now is an erection so strong that it will make you pass out whenever you watch yoga videos on YouTube!
When the Romans sacked enemy cities, they didn’t bring a flaccid hose to bust down the gates.
NO! THEY BROUGHT A BATTERING RAM!
And now you can, too.
So get your Cialis overseas today, because fuck you.
I think that works a bit better. Next, we’ve got something kind of weird. Has anyone ever heard of “superworms”? I hadn’t. Apparently they’re the larval stage of some sort of beetle, and people feed them to their pets. I got this random comment and was curious enough to watch the video.
“The best is How to Breed Superworms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLNH92q0YWg“
Amazon has selected The Knife in the Dark for their Kindle Monthly Deal in June in the UK store. It will be discounted to £0.99 through the first of July. Most of you probably have it already, but if not, it’s a good time to pull the trigger. One could get the first two books–Child of the Flames and The Knife in the Dark–for £0.99 apiece.
If you’ve got friends who might be interested, feel free to do a man a solid and share this post with them. Sales are always a good time to start reading something new. It will be a good lead-up to the release of The City Under the Mountain at the end of the summer.
So go ahead. Bring your friends to the Dark Side.
In the world of indie publishing, there is a metric ton of advice out there for authors on everything from crafting a professional manuscript to “gaming” the algorithms of Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and on into the sunset. Much of it is good. That’s the great thing about indie authors–they tend to offer a hand down to those climbing the proverbial ladder once they’ve seen a measure of their own success. Check out the nonfiction section of Amazon and you’ll probably see a lot of titles about marketing ebooks, or how to leverage this site or that to push your titles to the next level. It can be very confusing, especially considering that there are lots of people out there who offer the “tried and true system to push YOUR books to the next level!”
I’ve read a lot of it. But me being me, I’ve never been able to keep a long list of tactical tricks in my brain for marketing purposes. Keeping up with the changes in Amazon’s business models, or the way that Facebook pushes your author page to people, has never been my strong suit. I’ve never been a PR wizard, or an SEO specialist. I’ve never worked at any internet firms or anything like that. I’ve been a mechanic, a musician, an artist, a soldier, a writer–but never anything PR-related. I abhor social media on general principle, and don’t spend enough time on any website to get a deep understanding of the way they work. Maybe I’m kind of a dinosaur.
I can barely manage my website. Yes, it’s that bad.
When I first published back in 2011, I adopted every trick I could find. I was new to the scene, and had no idea what I was doing. I got easily bogged down in minutiae, and taken in by the advice of this writer, or that. Some good, mostly bad. My first book (with no comments on the horrible quality) did alright, but fell eventually into the mists of internet obscurity.
When I decided to revamp my writing career, I didn’t count on having any great amount of success. I decided that instead of listening to the endless parade of advice from authors who were offering it, I would instead adopt a few simple principles, and take a page from the books of some of the great generals in history–Strategy is by far more important than tactics. A tactic is a short-term thing designed to get you through the moment. A strategy is a plan of action for the long haul, and I made mine simple.
Concentrate on writing good books, get good-looking covers, and worry about the bullshit later.
I thought about the way that I look for a new book when I want something to read. I don’t listen to Facebook or Amazon, don’t click on ads, don’t participate in giveaways or contests (though I know some people do). What I do is probably what most of you do–I ask my friends. I read descriptions, I read reviews from other readers. I figured that for my own work, the best thing to do would be to try and write a good book. If it was good enough, people would want to read it and recommend it. It’s true that this is a more slow-burn type of strategy than landing an ad somewhere, and it might not net me a million downloads in a few days, but the people who did discover it would probably enjoy it more than if it had been shoved in their face by a pop-up on some random website.
I decided that I didn’t need to be the next George R.R. Martin, I just needed to write something that a few people really enjoyed. I wanted to be accessible as much as possible, and treat people like people instead of assets to push a product, or ticks on some line graph. What I wanted was a small group of fans with whom I can talk, joke around, and have a good rapport. I just don’t have it in me to be anything but generally irreverent, snarky, and completely unprofessional. I’m just a guy with tattoos. I could never be some untouchable, suit-draped elitist who looks down on others as a waste of his time. It’s just not me, and never could be me. When I think of authors doing book signing events, or live book readings, etc, what I would much rather do is just go out to a pub and have a beer with people.
I never counted on having much exposure, or a legion of fans. I figured a few people would like what I was doing, but it was probably going to be a niche crowd from the get-go. Since I changed my business model, so to speak, I’ve not purchased any ads, done any podcasts, promoted posts on Facebook, or joined Twitter hashtags. The closest thing I’ve done is Fantasy Writer of the Day on Reddit, but that’s totally free on my part, a niche crowd in itself, and it’s an AMA-style interaction between me and subscribers to the subreddit rather than an ad campaign. Which, by the way, I will be doing again on July 24th. Look for me there on that day if you want to ask questions, or just hang out and bullshit with me.
Somehow, along the way, the books have picked up some steam on their own. I say it’s down to you guys–the readers. You’ve read, recommended, shared, or whatever it is that you’ve done, and slowly but surely something pretty awesome has happened.
When I logged in to check my numbers this morning, I saw this. I was floored. There’s a lot of jostling that happens in the Amazon bestseller rankings, and they change from one minute to the next. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that all three of my books have slowly clawed their way into the top ten. For the last six months or so, Child of the Flames and The Knife in the Dark have stuck there consistently, and since The Old Man of the Temple‘s release, it’s been right there beside them, and featured in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases.”
So thanks. Thanks to all of you who have shared, recommended, talked about them with your friends, or left me reviews. Thanks to those of you who haven’t, but have purchased and read them all the same. The past two years I’ve worked hard on them, especially this past year, and it’s wild to see them climbing to where they are now. I can’t even describe the feeling, and it’s all down to you guys. I should be studying for my finals next week right now, but I’m cracking a Guinness Nitro for all of you out there who are riding this train with me. All I did was write them. You guys did this, and I fucking love you for it.
Much Love and Respect to you all.
I see you guys out there. You’re all awesome. My gratitude is yours.
Guess I’d better get cracking on that next book. Much love and respect to you all.
The Old Man of the Temple is now available at Amazon. Head over there and get the next installment in the story for your Kindle today. Put your feet up, have a beer, and read something nice.
Don’t forget to leave the book an honest review, if you like it and you’re so inclined. Enjoy, and have a good one.
So, I get a lot of spam comments on this website. I mean pages and pages of the things. I dread logging into my site because I always have to delete 50 or 60 of them. I thought I’d make it fun and share one with you guys.
“Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a data!
present here at this website, thanks admin of this website.”
What a data!
Gotta love that. I think I’ll keep doing this, ‘cuz I find it hilarious for some reason.
Don’t forget to get your copy of The Old Man of the Temple on April 22nd!